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A catalyst for the methanol economy

Hydrogen is readily converted into energy by PEM (proton-exchange membrane) fuel cells, but its inconvenience when it comes to transport and storage has limited interest in the 'hydrogen economy'. Methanol — 12.6% hydrogen and an easily handled liquid at room temperature — could be the answer to the problem. Matthias Beller and colleagues describe an efficient aqueous-phase methanol dehydrogenation process, catalysed by ruthenium complexes, that could form the basis of a practical hydrogen storage and delivery system. Importantly, because the reaction proceeds at 95 °C or below and at ambient pressures, it allows for the direct use of methanol in PEM fuel cells.

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